Category Archives: Postcards

Stuff where I’ve been

Castle Howard Proms, August 2012

Castle Howard puts on an annual summer concert which is an unashamed celebration of being properly British, and thanks to a good 2-for-1 deal with the local radio station, we were lucky enough to get to go this year.

Only Men Aloud

If you’ve not been to something similar before, then idea is to take a large national quality orchestra, put them on a big festival stage with a suitably exuberant conductor on the lawn outside a majestic stately home. Invite a couple of thousand excitable members of the public along with posh picnics and union flags, mix in a couple of large fireworks displays and you’ve got everything you need to get the party to go with a bang. And a bit of a whizz and pop too.

Amore on the big screen

Unlike when we went last time in 2007, people’s umbrellas were only needed to brolly-dance to the Sailors Hornpipe so it was a glorious evening for a picnic. However, like in 2007, we only arrived with half an hour before the start time on the tickets, so the place was already packed and the warmup act were half-way through their set. I’m a bit light on details as we couldn’t really see the big screens and I was more interested in eating sausage rolls than making notes, but I think it started with a Welsh mens choir (possibly Only Men Aloud) who kept things moving along before the main event.

Jae Alexander and the English National Orchestra

The music for the evening was courtesy of the English National Orchestra, a local tenor named John Hudson and star vocals from Amore. As in previous years, Jae Alexander did an excellent job of conducting and keeping the crowd entertained. The main set was split into two halves with the some more classical elements in the first half and popular favourites from the last night of the proms in the second half.

Also, flag poles seemed to be a bit higher tech this year, with people strapping flashing lights to the top of their Yorkshire and Union Flags. This made it a bit easier to try to navigate back to our spot in the crowd after buying another round of cups of tea from the food vans behind the VIP pens.

For us, however, the star of the evening was Flt Lt Charlie Brown who Displayed a Spitfire over the cheering crowds whilst the orchestra played along, including the theme from the Dambusters. Not a dry eye in the house and a good opportunity for me to have a play with my camera’s telephoto lens. I have a new found respect for video cameramen who have to keep fast moving action centred in the image from an extremely narrow field of view as I kept losing the plane in my viewfinder. I’ve included a clip of my video at the bottom.

Flt Lt Charlie Brown and a Supermarine Spitfire

finishing on a bang

After most people in the crowd were feeling cheered and merry from the roar of the Merlin engine, and one or two glasses of Pimms and / or Champagne, the popular classics kicked off in quick succession. The 1812 overture’s chorus was punctuated by some jumbo firecrackers which sounded nearly on the beat, but then the acoustics are probably a bit inexact when bouncing a bang off the front wall of a stone manor into the ears of several acres of crowd, some of whom were probably still singing along to Jerusalem.

The evening finished on a fireworks display that would make anybody happy on the 5th of November. Good times but I think next time we’ll need to get there at least an hour before kick off so we stood a fighting chance of seeing the stage without having to use the zoom lens to look at the big screens.

Dovedale and Ilam Country Park

14km, about 4.5 hours, teashop at half time.

The Peak District is easily the most visited of all our National Parks, and Dovedale in its South is one of the most popular places to go. It’s easy to see why when you see the photographs of the great scenery and how accessible it is to people who perhaps aren’t all that used to being in the countryside.

It’s owned by the National Trust, presumably administered along with the nearby Ilam Park, so its paths are well maintained and there’s a steady stream of information boards in case you missed something interesting.

If large, privately owned car parks aren’t your thing, the Trust has a modest and, above all, free car park in Milldale, at the North end of Dovedale. Whilst there’s just the loo block and 1 household doing a steady trade selling ices, snacks and postcards from their kitchen door, I’d thoroughly recommend starting at this end. It’s less developed, has way fewer people and I think it looks better too.

For a single valley, it’s entirely possible to walk a circular route, there’s a smaller footpath in the west that winds and climbs around the valley, though there’s one part of it in the North that would be underwater when the stream’s in spate.

We started mid morning in Milldale and walked south west to Ilam, where we paused for lunch at the NT tea rooms. Expensive but reasonably good food, unless you’re into huge slabs of cake then it’s good value. There’s an hour or two’s worth of wandering at Ilam if you’d like to look around, the archiecture of the houses in the village is quite impressive.



The return leg by way of the main path alongside the water in Dovedale is along the most popular part of the beaten track, you might need a spot of patience at busy times but don’t panic because most people don’t stray too far from the car park so it will get quieter soon enough.

Many people

Despite the paths being flat and well paved, I’d allow some time for sightseeing along the way. When we were there, there were a series of paintings on display near to the landscape features they depicted, there were plenty of orchids for spotting, if you like that sort of thing. The route back is straightforward, following the path of the water back to Milldale.



I don’t normally do restaurant reviews, but I thought this gem was well worth sharing with the internet. Whilst in Sheffield, we took a leisurely dinner at a Japanese Restaurant that I found almost by accident on Google Maps whilst I was looking for a car park using street view. It’s tucked away behind the Cathedral and is just a few minutes walk away from the City Hall if you’re going to one of the events there.

Sakushi has got something for everybody, it’s got bar seats at the conveyor belt if you’re after a casual bite, half a dozen booths and a handful of normal tables. I think you’d fit in about 50 people when it’s really buzzing. I won’t copy out its menu, but its variety makes it stand out from some other places I’ve visited.

We arrived early in the evening service, I think we were the second or third party in there, but it soon filled up with other couples and some young groups of friends. A few people stopped by to take advantage of their takeaway service, which seemed like a great idea if you happened to be nearby. Actually, I think Yo! do a similar takeaway service from their menu if you’ve time to wait for their kitchen, but not to sit down and eat.

The front of house staff are friendly, welcoming and knowledgeable. They were delighted to discuss some of the more interesting dishes on offer as well as advise on things like which order to eat things in and portion sizes. As one of them said “you keep ordering, and I’ll keep bringing it”. Challenge accepted.

This was the first Japanese place that’s had a specials board, where you get the entire roll of a maki if you custom ordered it, rather than just a couple of slices.

We started with a Miso Soup and Sashimi. Miso soup is Miso soup, but the sashimi was just meltingly fresh, I couldn’t choose between fish but luckily they do platters of different sizes. I had a collection of salmon, tuna, seabass and what was either yellow tail or butterfish, beautifully presented on some real seaweeds and salads and a real leaf (rather than the green plastic one normally come across).

Sashimi (slightly nommed)

We followed this up with a few maki from the conveyor belt whilst the kitchen prepared some Kara Age Chicken and a hand roll of their in house speciality, the ‘Sakushi Roll’. This is clearly aimed at a western audience, the only thing missing was the mayo, but it was just divine with such a mix of fresh and saucy, crisp and juicy with the grilled eel providing a real kick of flavour. The mix of salmon and avocado is traditional enough, but to this was added a prawn tempura (I have no idea where on earth they found these prawns, they were enormous) and a good slice of Unagi, with a dash of kabayaki sauce to hold it together.

Mixed tempura

I love Teriaki sauce, so we settled for a dish of Teriaki Duck with a bowl of rice and a mixed collection of tempura. I bagsied the squid really quickly but there were some more of these enormous prawns and some excellent vegetables. I particularly rated the fan cut aubergine and disc of sweet potato. These were served with a nice light soy vinegar sauce rather than a heavy thai style dipping gloop.

I didn’t think I’d stand a chance of fitting myself around either of the cheesecakes, but we were brought some really nice green tea ice cream with two spoons to finish with. Next time we’re trying the black sesame ice cream, apparently it’s even nicer.

Japanese food of this quality is never cheap, but our bill for two came to £55, which includes four soft drinks. Whilst we did get completely carried away, I thought this offered fantastic value for money and I would definately go again if I’m ever within sniffing distance of the city.

Like I said, this offers a lot for everybody, whether you’re a keen eater of raw fish, prefer your meat grilled or are an avid vegetarian. It’s got a solid wine menu, starting at just £12 a bottle, with cocktails available on request. You could pop by for a £5 light lunch, phone through a take away order, have a sensible quick dinner with a bento box or choose one of their 25 main meal dishes.

There’s something about Japanese cuisine that leaves you feeling refreshed, light and happy. And, apparently, it even cures headaches.

Can you tell I liked it? 🙂